The trans community and allies in Athens held a vigil for Nex Benedict

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ATHENS, Ohio (WOUB) — The Athens community gathered on campus Saturday to commemorate the life of Nex Benedit, a 16-year-old non-binary, transgender high school student who died last month in Oklahoma.  

Benedict died after a confrontation with three girls in the bathroom of Owasso High School in Owasso, Oklahoma on Feb. 7 after the group made fun of Nex and their friend’s clothing. After the fight, all students involved were able to walk to the assistant principal and nurse’s office to give statements on the altercation and be medically examined, according to a statement from the Owasso Police Department posted on their Facebook page.

Benedict was advised to seek further medical attention, but it was determined that an ambulance would not be necessary at that time. They were released to their parent and later died in the St. Francis Pediatric Emergency Room a day later. An autopsy showed that their death was not caused by trauma.

An investigation into Benedict’s death is ongoing.  

News of their death has spread across the country. Communities, like Athens, are hosting vigils and protesting transgender laws around the country.  

A cardboard sign reads "Trans Ohioans Stand with Nex Benedict." It sits on steps surrounded by candles
“Nex didn’t do a damn thing wrong,” Jamie Miller, an organizer of the event said.  

The transgender community and allies say that Benedict’s death reflects what they see as a broader attack on trans people through legislation and increased persecution by conservatives.

“A lot of people are terrified of what’s going to happen next, waiting for the next senseless death,” Ari Faber, another organizer, said.   

Although the vigil brought people together to honor and mourn the life of Benedict, it also brought a sense of community and support.  

Faber praised the gathering and “The aspect of collective grief being able to spend time in community together, supporting one another.” 

After the vigil, the group marched to the Athens County Municipal Court on South Court Street to protest the recent passage of Ohio House Bill 68, a bill that bans gender-affirming care for minors and prevents trans women and girls from joining women’s and girls’ sports teams in schools and universities.  

Finn, a protestor who wasn’t comfortable sharing his last name, said he was proud of the evening’s turnout.  

“This shouldn’t be happening, I shouldn’t have to be here, but we are and I’m very proud of that,” he said.

Participants lined up to speak at the protest to express their frustration at the increase of anti-trans legislation, fear for the future and respect for the community. 

Finn said his heart goes out to Benedict and other trans youth like them, “In part to pay respect to the life of someone who was not always respected in life, but also because there are trans children who are around you right now that you might not know are trans.” 

HB 68 is set to go into effect in April, and it is the latest in a long line of anti-trans legislation that has passed in recent years. According to Trans Legislation Tracker, six anti-trans bills have been passed in five states this year.